|Pan Gu - Primeval Man Born of The|
|Keiko Higuchi - Ephemeral As Petals|
It's strange, of all the releases I'm covering here, I feel like this one is the most controlled. Even though this is still very strange and unrestrained (contradicting I know), it still feels like it's reigned in so as not to just become a series of musicians trying to outdo each other. Instrumentally, the band are definitely well contained. Musically it's definitely in the veins of jazz and at times channeling a bit more of an almost classical vibe through the piano playing, but jazz would be the simplest term. At times the music is very minimal, with only piano acting as the main instrument besides the vocals while other tracks are just off-the-wall pieces where drums, bass, guitar, and piano all clash with each other for space. Then there are the vocals, and let me tell you, Higuchi is one strange vocalist. Her vocal acrobatics are awe inspiring to say the least, it's like Bjork had a mental breakdown to be honest. Though, it goes without saying that this is far less accessible than anything Bjork has ever released. Then, most notably on the My Funny Valentine cover, she channels the spirit of Nico strangely enough. There were points on here where the vocals are so bizarre sounding that I found them offputting (and that's coming from someone who's favorite vocalists do such acrobatics with their voices as well). I think that most could probably tolerate it musically but the vocals would be the main cause of any trouble.
|K11 - Another Temple to The Great|
|Jacob - The Ominous|
|Burning Tree - Lammergyer|
Goddamn it this was a bitch of an album. The first time I pressed play and that saxophone blasted into my eardrum I just about jumped out of my seat. This saxophone and drum duo really play with just as much intensity as almost any metal band I've ever heard. It's seriously enough to give a guy a heart attack after hearing that first track, Red Mercury. The rest of the album follows suit with tracks that really blur the lines as to how intense jazz can be before it becomes something else. It's frenetic and aggressive with drums that are just all over the place. Seriously, Dag Erik Knedal Andersen not only plays with as much intensity as any metal drummer I've ever heard, but is utilizing techniques that you would almost never hear in the genre. He can blast but instead he rolls over and over and over again until you're basically out of breath just listening to him. Dag Stiberg keeps up with his companion by just squawking his saxophone over the whole damn record. At times, I'm not gonna lie, it recalls some of what I found annoying about John Zorn's improv pieces, but at other times it just enthralling and exhilarating to listen to.
|Away - Cities|
|Dead Neanderthals - Polaris|
On the other side of the intensity of Burning Tree you have Dead Neanderthals jazz pieces. While it's clear that this duo also strive to achieve a similar goal of blurring the lines between jazz and metal (or at least that's what I'm assuming their goals are) they definitely do not achieve the same level of intensity or maddening abrasiveness of the aforementioned band. That being said, this album is much more palatable by comparison. Not only are the pieces shorter (for the most part anyway) but there is much more graspable quality to what these two are playing. There's definitely a better use of dynamics on here, with clear levels of contrast between aggressive bursts, more subtle low-key moments, and then much clearer jazz (in the traditional sense) sections. The parts are a lot easier to distinguish from each other and it isn't as constant an assault on your ears as the other album was. So in that there is praise to be served because this duo may blur the lines but they also know that they are trying to keep a listener's attention for more than short intervals of time. So, I would definitely check this album out before diving into the Burning Tree album, if only to act as a taste of what you'll experience above. It really is its own unique thing, but hopefully you got that as well.
|The Stargazer's Assistant - Mirrors & Tides,|
Shivers & Voids